Drumstick pods are long and slender, averaging 20 to 45 centimeters in length, and are generally straight to cylindrical in shape with tapered ends. Each pod has an angular, knobbed appearance with three distinct sides created from ridges extending the ngth of the pod. The pods surface is light to dark green and is textured, covered in a powdery coating. Young pods are favored for culinary use, and at this stage, the softer, crisp pods can often bend and be snapped using minimal force, a sign of freshness. More mature pods are fibrous and require prolonged periods of cooking. The pods can be peeled apart and split open, revealing a fleshy layer encasing round to oval seeds. Each seed is around one centimeter in diameter and is enveloped in a thin, paper-like hull that showcases three points, almost resembling tiny wings or the edges of a wonton wrapper. When young, the seeds are light green, and as the pods dry out and age, the seeds will become inedible, harden, and brown. The flesh and seeds of the pods are the edible portions of the drumstick and release a mild, fresh, green aroma when opened. The exterior layer of the pod is considered too fibrous for consumption and is discarded after the flesh is removed. Once cooked, the flesh softens and can be easily scraped from the pod. The seeds retain a slightly chewy, dense consistency. Drumstick pods have a grassy and vegetal flavor combined with sweet and bitter undertones. The flesh and seeds are often likened to the taste of green beans and asparagus.
Drumstick pods are a source of vitamin C to strengthen the immune system and boost collagen production; fiber to regulate the digestive tract, and calcium to build strong bones and teeth. The pods also provide copper to produce red blood cells, iron to develop the protein hemoglobin for oxygen transport through the bloodstream, magnesium to regulate optimal nerve functioning, and other nutrients, including potassium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, folate, niacin, beta-carotene, riboflavin, and oleic acid, a fatty acid for heart health. The seeds extracted from the Drumstick pods are pressed into an oil, and the remaining fibers from the seeds are formed into a cake and used as a filter for drinking water in some countries.
Drumstick pods have a mild, grassy, and vegetal flavor suited for cooked preparations. The pods are traditionally sliced into 2-to-5-centimeter pieces and are boiled, steamed, fried, or stir-fried to develop a soft and tender consistency. It is important to note that the pod’s exterior is too fibrous, even when young, for consumption and is discarded after the flesh and seeds are removed. The flesh is extracted from the pod by scraping with the teeth, similar to an artichoke leaf, or by chewing and sucking out the flesh. The seeds are also edible and are a favored portion of the pod, giving dishes added flavor and texture. Drumstick pods are used as an everyday vegetable throughout Southeast Asia and are most commonly used in Indian cooking. The pods can be sliced and boiled into soups and curries, stir-fried with pungent aromatics, cooked and mixed into thick gravies, or mashed, formed into a ball with herbs, and deep-fried to create a crisp snack. In southern India, drumstick pods are popularly cooked in sambar, a stew-like dish comprised of vegetables, lentils, and spices. The seeds are also incorporated into tor dal recipes, tossed in a coconut and yogurt sauce known as avial, or mixed into various masalas. Drumstick pods pair well with aromatics such as garlic, onions, ginger, and Chile peppers, grated coconut, spices including fennel seeds, curry leaves, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, turmeric, and coriander, mint, tamarind, and meats such as lamb, beef, and poultry. Whole Drumstick pods can be wrapped and stored in the fridge for a few weeks or sliced and kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Drumstick pods can also be chopped and frozen for six months.
Drumstick pods are available throughout the year in warm, tropical climates. In cooler regions or subtropical climates, the pods generally ripen in the summer.